Friday, April 27, 2012

Abstraction, Abstract expressionism, and other isms. Can we really classify art?

Abstraction, Abstract expressionism,                                                                                   and other isms. Can we really classify art?


I really have trouble with the word abstract. It’s WAY overused. Initially it was understood – especially in the first quarter of the 20th century. Before that the impressionists were giddy about abstracting their subjects. And there in lies the point – to have an abstraction, you have to have something to abstract. 

The first 3 examples above are clearly abstracts (Sutulov; Magerl; Stojanovic; Brig). My "walking on Water" (previous post) is obviously abstract.

The next three pieces are what you may call expressionist or non-representative (Richter; Gomez; and my own "The Depths"). Here the effort to classify becomes troublesome. I generally look at work which have a lot of energy as expressionist (such as the Richter, above as well as Pollack and De Kooning). The freedom of their work tends to fit the "classification". Much contemporary work though simply seems just non-representational or simply Contemporary. Today artists including myself are still working in abstract or any other form - whatever expresses what they want to convey. 

Therefore begs the question: do we need to classify art: do we need to tag it, name it, ism it? Artist themselves often call their work something. Sometimes to make themselves stand out as being different, or maybe just trying to explain that they are doing. I often call my work geometric expressionism or metaphorical - but then I'll do something completely different....

Historians may disagree with me but the term abstract expressionism was seldom abstract – but expressionism describes it well. The term abstract clung to it as it gave it some grounding; in other words, people new what abstraction was but had difficulty intellectually making the transition away from something they knew and understood. Therefor the term became universally accepted. Picasso and Miro for example, were abstractionist as were Modigliani and early Kraser. Pollock is still my favorite and called an abstract expressionist – but what was he abstracting? Once we leave the word of representing what we see to what we are – we become something else. You’ll hear a lot of this from me.

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